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Lawmakers urge Hagel not to slash soldiers’ smart-phone network

Lawmakers are urging Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel not to slash funding for a new Army network designed to bring the flexibility of the smartphone and mobile tablet computing to soldiers in combat.

In a letter to Mr. Hagel, the entire delegation of U.S. House members from Massachusetts warns that the Warfighter Information Network - Tactical (WIN-T) and the hand-held devices that connect to it, called HMS, "cannot sustain additional cuts, including cuts from reprogramming."

Reprogramming requests are submitted to Congress when agencies or departments want to change the spending that was approved by lawmakers in appropriations laws.

Last week, a leaked draft of such a request from the Pentagon showed that defense chiefs planned to cut $128 million from the WIN-T program as part of a $9 billion shift of funds to meet higher than expected war costs this year and to offset the effects of the across-the-board spending cuts called sequestration.

The cuts to WIN-T are among a series of proposed raids on procurement programs for new weapons systems totaling $3.4 billion, and also including reductions to the Air Force's new Long Range Strike bomber, Inside Defense reported.

WIN-T has a troubled history, beset by delays and questions about the testing procedures used, and was targeted for cuts last year in a reprogramming request that was eventually abandoned.

In an interview Wednesday with the Deep Dive Intelligence news blog, the president of lead WIN-T contractor General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc. said the program would provide voice, data/text and video connectivity to soldiers on the front line.

"The Army has stated their number one priority is network modernization," said Chris Marzilli, "Now it's time to make sure that, in these difficult times, they actually resource the programs. And we're making our case to hang in there."

"A soldier's communications gear can be just as important as body armor and rifles in combat," the lawmakers write in their May 10 letter.

Although their letter does not mention it, WIN-T and HMS support nearly 2000 jobs in Massachusetts, at General Dynamics C4 Systems, and about 70 suppliers and sub-contractors, according to company executives.

The Pentagon does not comment on leaked draft documents.

Only one Massachusetts Senate seat is currently occupied -- by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Staff in the Senator's office said she supports the program but had no further comment at present.

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About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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